10) Snagging Sanders
Given Stanford's prolific running back recruiting over the past few years, signing a back wasn't necessarily a top priority for the 2012 class, but Barry J. Sanders was too good to pass up. While many recruiting analysts thought Sanders was a lock to attend his famous father's alma mater, Oklahoma State, the four-star back maintained he was open to other schools. He whittled down his expansive list of offers to Alabama, Florida State and Oklahoma State, along with the Card, and eventually committed to Stanford at the U.S. Army All-American game. Sanders is expected to bring dynamic playmaking ability to the backfield, and is thought to have excellent pass-catching ability for a tailback. And, while it's certainly not the reason Stanford recruited him, the ‘Sanders' name won't hurt the Card's visibility or program perception in future years.
9) Class management
Despite the relative success of Stanford's recruiting efforts, the Cardinal suffered major attrition that left a lingering cloud over the program's past classes. In 2011, the Cardinal lost Amir Carlisle, Anthony Sarao, Shutang Mungwa, Daniel Davis, Jordan Perkins, and Garrett Gladd for various reasons. In 2010, the team suffered through double-digit decommitments. But in 2012, a year in which flip-flopping recruits were all the rage on the national level, Stanford's class sustained only minimal attrition. Jontrey Tillman and Deante' Gray were the lone decommits from Stanford's class (not counting Aziz Shittu, who ended up signing with the Card), a far cry from past seasons. Attrition isn't necessarily a negative in it of itself, but the Card should be commended for holding together such a banner group of recruits, and targeting prospects with strong academic resumes.
8) NFL bloodlines
They aren't everything, solid bloodiness shouldn't be entirely dismissed. Multiple players in Stanford's 2012 class have fathers who have played in the NFL: Kodi Whitfield (Bob Whitfield), Barry J. Sanders (Barry Sanders), Andrus Peat (Todd Peat), Alex Carter (Tom Carter), Nick Davidson (Jeff Davidson), and Noor Davis. (Davis' father prefers not to be identified in interviews so as to not distract from his son's accomplishments.) While having a parent who played at the highest level may help a recruit's understanding of the game, we feel the high dose of NFL bloodlines in this class is also a strong endorsement of Stanford's coaching staff and program. And hey, if there's a flag football tournament for Pac-12 parents, we'd double down on Stanford.
7) New assistant coaches make a splash
First-year assistant coaches Mike Sanford and Mike Bloomgren did phenomenal jobs on the recruiting trail. Bloomgren played an instrumental role in landing one of the best offensive line recruiting classes of all time. Andrus Peat, Joshua Garnett, Graham Shuler and others singled out the former New York Jets assistant as playing a part in their decision to commit to Stanford. For those efforts, Bloomgren was named Pac-12 Recruiter of the Year by ESPN.com. Meanwhile, Sanford, a former assistant at Western Kentucky, emerged as another ace recruiter in the 2012 cycle, playing a key role in landing Sanders, and helping Stanford land Shuler, defensive end Nathanael Lohn, and others. In the dozens of interviews I conducted with Stanford recruits, Sanford was the Cardinal coach mentioned most. The Southern California native is an energetic presence who's likely to help Stanford maintain its strong recruiting efforts in future years.
6) No quarterback
From the beginning of the 2012 cycle, it was clear Stanford wouldn't take a quarterback just to take a quarterback. The Cardinal made a brief run at Jeff Lindquist and were set to host Gunner Kiel for a Junior Day before he canceled at the last minute, but seemed likely to strike out on 2012 signal callers. (Class of 2010 signee Dallas Lloyd is expected to enroll at Stanford following his return from his Mormon mission.) A late run at five-star Alabama gunslinger Jameis Winston provided a glimmer of hope; however, though he was admitted to Stanford, Winston ultimately stuck with his original verbal to Florida State. The good news is that lack of a 2012 QB–and an elite offensive line class–should help the Card sign an studly 2013 signal caller. In his signing day press conference, David Shaw said Stanford is involved with four of the top five 2013 quarterbacks in the nation. Expect to see the Card connected to Ryan Burns, Cooper Bateman, and Max Browne, among others.
Part Two of The Bootleg's Top-10 signing day stories will be published in the coming days.
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